After a stroke, challenges that can affect how you function safely in your home include:
- Poor balance or coordination
- Memory loss
- Lack of bladder or bowel control
You can move around easier and with less risk by making low- or no-cost changes to floor coverings, passageway widths and grade levels.
Low-pile carpet or vinyl or laminate flooring are good if you walk (with or without a cane or walker) or use a wheelchair. If you use a power wheelchair, consider removing all carpets because the torque of making turns can stretch or damage carpeting.
Passageway widths include spaces between furnishings, hallways and doorways. You can rearrange furniture to allow adequate space. This may require removing seldom-used furniture. If you use a wheelchair or walker, a passageway with a turn must be wide enough to accommodate your equipment so you change direction. You can get more space from a doorway without widening the door. Ensure that the door can swing open to at least 90 degrees, preferably to the adjacent wall. You may have to move objects behind the door. Consider reversing the hinges so that the door opens out into a hallway instead of the room. If there’s still not enough space, install swing clear hinges to gain the few inches usually from the thickness of the door when it’s opened. You can also widen the doorway.
You can raise thresholds, steps or stairs. Install a rail or handle on the wall where you step up or over. Install railings on both sides of the stairs, extending beyond the last step in either direction. This gives additional support for ascending and descending, including your approach to the stairs. If you use a walker, consider keeping one upstairs and one downstairs, rather than bringing one up and down. Safety tips Before you’re discharged from the hospital, an occupational therapist can assess your home and help you manage daily activities to regain independence.
You can navigate your home and prevent further injury if you:
- Exercise to strengthen leg muscles and balance.
- Wear flat, wide-toed shoes.
- Eat calcium-rich foods and take calcium supplements to increase bone strength.
- Follow therapists’ recommendations about limitations and walking needs.
- Don’t rely on furniture for support while walking.
- Recognize that certain medicines may make you drowsy.
- Limit walking when distracted.
- Use assistive devices as prescribed by therapists.